Spanish fir (Abies pinsapo)

west of the Fine Arts Building Map

This tree was planted immediately west of the Fine Arts Building, late in 2009. It is an interesting, attractive little tree, and we are lucky to have it. However, in a way, the tree is lucky to be here as well. In the wild its range now is restricted to a few small areas in the mountains of southern Spain. (A subspecies A. pinsapo ssp marocana grows in the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco.) Survival of the species thus may depend on the arboretums, parks and backyards of the world. According to Jacobson, alternative names for the Spanish fir include "bottlebrush fir" and "hedgehog fir". (Jacobson has an unrivaled talent for ferreting out colorful names for trees.) These alternatives refer to the fact that the short, stiff needles of A. pinsapo extrude from the twig in all directions, much like one would expect in a spruce – or a bottlebrush. However, the needles of the Spanish fir are blunt and carry the characteristic white longitudinal lines of fir species, thus eliminating any ambiguity.

Spanish fir specimens can reach 65 ft. or more in height. They are slow growing, and in their protracted youth maintain a pleasant conical shape. In old age they are said to become somewhat ragged and disorganized – as with so many of us. According to Robert Van Pelt the largest Spanish fir in Washington State is located on the grounds of Carl Cozier School, right here in Bellingham – in 1995 it was 69 ft. tall and had a trunk circumference of over 11 ft.